I hope at the time of me writing this blog everyone is keeping well.
In my November blog I want to talk about where our focus is when we are suffering from panic. I get lots of contact to the "its just a feeling website" from people who are currently struggling with panic symptoms and desperately searching for the way out of the hell that they find themselves in.
What seems to crop up again and again when people tell me about their own situations is the immense focus on their own mood and good and bad days. The focus is so great that they can almost to the minute remember when their mood dropped or they had a panic attack or that they felt ok for a while.
I call this "mood monitoring" or "internal monitoring"and from my own personal experience its one of the biggest obsticles to overcome in the fight against your own panic.
This focus and tendency to internally monitor yourself is so strong that during the twelve years that I was at my worst I literally could remember every moment I felt down and panicky. This was because Depression and Panic was related to every moment I lived, everywhere I visited and almost every memory I had.
Internal monitoring eventually leads to you focusing so much on your internal thoughts, feelings and symtoms that you begin to take less and less notice of the outside world and this only serves to isolate you further and keeps you going round and round in circles.
I could look at a photo from years before and rather than see just the photo, I would look at the image of myself and remember exactly how I was feeling at that moment.
I seemed powerless to stop this internal monitoring and I seemed that in order to keep control of myself I had to somehow control this thing that was happening to me or be on guard in case it suddenly worsened, I also thought things over and over to see if I could find a solution to my problem or understand where it has come from. We feel powerless to stop this constant mind chatter and are so aware of it constantly that we are inside ourselves.
Often I could see no hope for the future because as these memories had been made and would never leave me, I reluctantly carried them around with me like a heavy burden while I tried to look forward and keep some hope for an anxiety free future.
What I needed to understand was that the first trick was to become aware of what I was doing, only then could I take a step back and begin to detatch from it, and begin to tip my own emotional scale in a different direction to break this cycle.
There are a number of problems associated with internally monitoring yourself to this level and I will try to talk about them all here nowand how to become aware of what we are doing.
1.Remember you are making memories every moment you live memories are made, kept and will be taken with you where ever you go!
Every present moment that we live becomes a memory almost instantly as the next present moment comes along. Life can only actually be lived in the present moment.
If we were to allow or learn to keep our mind still and free of thought and just be, then we will learn that we probably do not suffer anxiety as anxiety is usually related to thoughts of something bad happening in the past or in fact something we fear will happen in the future.
Some memories we dismiss and forget over time, probably because they were not something that really meant something to us, or that there was no high emotion connected to the memory. Others though, are connected to high emotion, whether thats happy, sad, or anxious. These memories we do not tend to forget, they are stored and can be relived again and again. They made fade over time, but they are never forgotton and because they have an emotion attached, we can pull back and relive that emotion as we relive the memory in our minds eye. Now if thats a happy event thats fine and makes us feel good. But if its sad or anxious it can bring back the way we felt and immediatly have an effect on our current mood at the present time. This is what is happening to you when you are locked in the cycle of panic. Can you see now why it is difficult to overcome and takes work and time?
Because when we are suffering from Anxiety often acute in the beginning, with no real let up in mood or symptoms all our memories are connected to high emotion and bad feelings. This is why this is so hard to overcome and we loose hope for the future as we carry these memories around with us like huge ton burdens on our backs. We re live them again and again, it takes away our present moment as we live the present moment in our heads thinking about the past or future. This in turn makes us look to the future with fear as all we can see is an anxiety filled life going forwards. This keeps anxiety alive.
As our brain is a logical organ it tries to solve our difficultly by going over and over things desperately looking for a solution. This makes us concentrate on our internal thoughts, feelings and behaviour even more and so keeps the cycle going.
Regaining your life from anxiety disorders requires you to become aware of memory storing and the emotions attached to it and asks that you begin to learn to form happier memories through concsious work to do so. You have to begin to break the cycle.
If you are going to be taking these memories forward into your future, you should begin to try and adapt your perceptions a little at a time. Try to live in the present moment, notice what is actually going on around you right now and work but by bit to alter the way you are reacting to your panic. For me just becoming really aware that I was actually creating my future now and I was creating the memories that I would take into my future NOW were enough to convince me that in order to live an anxiety free future I needed to begin to adapt my present. I needed to shift my attention from my internal self and my mood and internal montoring and begin to start noticing what was going on outside of myself once again.
Remember though this does not happen over night, it takes first awareness and second we need to work hard to change things for ourselves for the better!
While we focus internally on ourselves, we loose more of ourselves and we loose more of whats going on in outside world and make panic stronger
Basically what I am trying to say is the more you focus just on you, the more you will stay helpless and trapped by your own monitoring. We stop noticing life and instead spend all day every day going over and over why we are like this and what will happen to us as a result of this hell we are in.
This is how panic works to keep you stuck, it WANTS your focus to be on you and nothing else because that is how it stays alive.
Try to make small changes everyday that bring your focus away from your anxious thoughts and feelings . Work to change your habits a little each day. Yes this takes work, everyday but the more time you can spend with your focus away from yourself the less anxiety you will feel.
Stop pouring petrol onto your fire.
Finally we must be reminded of the role of the Amygdala (A part of our Brain) and its role in Anxiety Disorders
This is all connected to what I said earlier and you can read much more about the role the Amygdala plays in anxiety disorders here.
I honestly believe that in order to achieve recovery from any type of anxiety problem its vital that you understand the involvement of the Amygdala.
The Amygdala are a pair of small organs within the medial temporal lobes of the brain that are responsible for making these fight or flight decisions within you.
The amygdala actually perform a really important role in that they are responsible for the formation and storage of memories associated with emotions which include the emotions of anxiety and fear.
Scientists have in fact shown that fear conditioning, experienced by those who develop an anxiety disorder such as Generalised Anxiety, Actual Panic attacks, Phobias or obsessions (OCD), all happens within the amygdala and is stored by it as an inappropriate anxious reaction.
This is why Understanding the Role of the Amygdala and the role it plays in Anxiety Disorders is so key to reversing the cycle of panic and achieving full recovery.
The Amygdala is like the body's Anxiety heat control Thermostat
All Thermostats typically control Temperature. But not the Amygdala, its a thermostat that is responsible for full control of the EmotIon of Anxiety in humans. That is its job and its really effective and really quick, with less than a second to full blown activation!.
It makes super fast decisions which over ride everything else as it could well be a life or death situation and it needs to keep you safe!
It is so quick because the decisions are actually made on an unconcious level. You don't even register the thought on a conscious level
It is also responsible for the formation and storage or memories which we have associated with emotional events that happen to us, in other words its really good at linking this reaction to the situation and so everytime we RE ENTER that situation we are programmed to feel fear again, if we then have the same reaction our fear grows!
It is your reaction that turns a panic attack into an anxiety disorder. So to recover you must alter your reaction.
So again, this part of your brain is responsible for storning your memories attached to emotion and also for activation of the fight or flight response when it feels you are under threat or in danger. It does a fantastic job as its so quick you wont even be aware of it on a concsious level. Whats really important to understand is that when we feel panic and the amygdala activates the fear response, if we react when we know there is no real danger to us in the situation we actually begin to TRAIN our own amygdala to react. The next time we find ourselves in that same situation (maybe a supermarket or at a friends) it will activate on a subconcious level before we even know what is happening!
Can you see how this is all connected now? We must break the cycle.
So in short, understand what your amygdala is doing, how it works and then retrain your own Amygdala and you will cure your anxiety and change the way the way that your body reacts to panic so that you are no longer bothered by it.
A Final thought...
Ultimately we need to understand that to stay anxious or depressed is a full time job and takes all our time. However it does not make us feel good to be stuck there. Often we become lonely, isolated and hopeless to ever becoming the person we once were ever again. We think there is nothing we can do and so we accept that and stay stuck. The thing is though this is not true, there is lots we can do to help ourselves and we do not have to stay stuck.
We are so focused on ourselves we begin to loose any focus on the outside world and life as it happens, the trick is to understand this and work to reverse it.
There is lots you can do to help yourself.
Begin small steps to come out of yourself, start to enter manageable situations, to socialise again or even to take a short walk pick a flower and closely examine will all begin to bring you back out of yourself and away from this internal monitoring and obsession with your mood.
By begining to replace your unhappy memories with happier more confident ones, spending more time learning to once again notice what is going on around you rather than in side you and by changing your reaction to your Amygdada, Only then will you begin to stop devoting all of your time to something that in return is robbing you of your quality of life and even yourself.
Things will not be easy in the beginning, it takes time to develop new habits, to gain enjoyment and confidence out of things again, but if you never start to change your perceptions and behaviours how will you ever come to realise this?
YOU CAN DO THIS.
Good luck to you all, I hope my blog and experience help you in your own journey, I will blog again next month,
Wishing you calmness, health and happiness